Another Look at Excuses

Lately, all my good-intended plans to maintain consist in my commitment to ashtanga ever seems to meet up with are excuses. My son falling back to sleep (needing me to wake him several times each morning), my stiff back, tight left hamstring, longer work days, exhaustion… the list goes on. Monday night, I vowed to not let the excuses get in the way of making it, not just to my mat, but to the Mysore room. When morning came, I found that not only had my son fallen asleep doing his homework but that there was no hot water in the house. Somehow, I managed to relight the water heater, and see to it that my boy was awake enough to attend to his schoolwork. And then I actually left for Mysore.

I found myself a spot by the window, and began. It was a SLOW and UGLY process trying to find my way through the series of set poses with my body as stiff as it was. I did my best to maintain my dristi and remain focused on MY practice but, there were times when I found myself admiring another ashtangi’s grace and ease from downdog — remembering where I was just a few months ago when things seemed to be opening up and releasing. If I really was a dog, my tail would be tucked between my legs, for any good ashtanga keeps their focus on their own practice.

Not only did I lose my focus, I discovered that I’d skipped poses long after I should have done them. Not knowing if I should go back, I moved on, reminding myself to FOCUS! Periodically, my teacher would come help me go deeper into a pose. She noticed, I’m sure, how weak and inflexible I’ve become in my weeks of inconsistent practice. In fact, anyone could see — if my mat fell within the periphery of their gaze. I’m exaggerating of course. It wasn’t ALL bad. There were times where I had found focus, stability, and even a bit of ease. Like in life, it’s the tougher moments that stand out though.

At one point, I was feeling pretty good. I was in one of the standing revolved poses when my teacher came around to assist.  She helped to level and stabilize my hips while I moved my heart towards the heavens. When I’d gotten there, I made eye contact with her and we both smiled. I thanked her as she left my side, then I enjoyed the pose for another breath or two. But as I was coming out, I felt a tug on my right side – which I quickly discounted as normal growing pains and moved on only to discover that it wasn’t normal at all. Nothing was normal after that. My back got stiffer and stiffer, and I got weaker and weaker, until I finally decided to end my practice early. I did bridge instead of wheel, countered with a forward fold, and quickly ended it after that (skipping the closing series all together). By the time I arrived at work, I could barely pull myself out of the car and up to standing and it hurt to breathe in fully. I’d really done it this time, and all because I’d let excuses come in between me and my practice for weeks on end.

Thankfully, my chiropractor had a cancelation that same day. He rotated my vertebrae back in line with the others, pushed my sacrum back where it belonged, and helped release weeks of built-up tension on the left side.

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The following day, I did a gentle practice at home and vowed to return to Mysore the following day.  But then the excuses popped up again. I told myself that my body was too stiff for mysore and that I’d just do my practice at home.  Then, after finishing the sun salutations, I left my mat to rescue my son from issues uploading his essay for school to the turnitin website… and never made it back. I didn’t make it there for today’s Led Primary Series either which is unfortunate because there is no Mysore at my studio over the weekend. Instead, I started with the my own ashtanga practice but deviated from the series just after the Sun Salutations. After inserting a chair twist in a desperate attempt to realign my spine, I fell into my own series of do-what-makes-you-feel-good poses. By the time I hit the shower to get ready for work, I felt good physically and equally excited about not giving up on my practice all together. Yet, I also felt a little guilty for not sticking with the sequence.

I must admit, I felt good in being able to spontaneously come up with a series of poses that would build upon each other and ultimately bring me comfort in my body. To the extent that I was mostly attended to the physical side of my practice, rather than attending to the aspects that draw me  to ashtanga (those that teach the ashtangi to maintain focus and dedication amid the unsettled and difficult), I know that this type of practice has it’s benefits too.

Not only is it good for me to listen to my body, it is also beneficial to reinforce my learning the functional anatomy teachings by experiencing, first hand, the effects that each of the varying asanas has on my body. I also think that the varied sequencing of poses will help me when I have to build my own sequence for students. Obviously, teaching is still a ways out but I think that it may be a better approach to stop beating myself up for not being able to work the ashtanga schedule into my mornings. Since I can’t seem to make the morning ritual happen, I think another look at the excuses is in order.

Perhaps a healthier approach to navigating this chapter of my life would be to see the “excuses” as the “obstacles” and stop beating myself up. Hopefully, changing my viewpoint will allow me to be the supportive mom that I want to be AND still find time to support my own spiritual, emotional, and physical needs through yoga and meditation. Sometimes, this will be ashtanga, but perhaps not always. Right now, I need to let that be okay.

One comment

  • ugojuls

    It should be noted that my left lower back had gotten extremely tight over the week or so prior to this mysore practice. Although my teacher was there helping me to hold my hips level, this injury could have easily happened in a home-based practice. I never felt any warning that I was taking the pose too far. If I had, I would have let her know, as YOU should do if you are ever in such a position during an assist. This was 100% NOT her fault.

    September 16, 2013

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